Jordanian schoolchildren start the school day by lining up in the courtyard of the school and singing what is possibly the shortest national anthem in the world, plus another song that sounds like “Mountanee”. The song, I have discovered, is now the national anthem of Iraq, and is based on a poem موطني‎ “My Homeland” by Palestinian Ibrahim Touqan.
Here are the words to the Jordanian national anthem as usually performed in public:

عاش المليك
عاش المليك
سامياً مقامهُ
خافقاتٍ في المعالي أعلامه

A-Sha-al Maleek
A-Sha-al Maleek
Sa-Mi-yan-ma-qa mu-ho
Kha-fi-qa-tin fil ma-ali
a-lam m-hu

Long live the King!
Long live the King!
His position is sublime,
His banners waving in glory supreme.

And here is mountanee (mawtini?), but I think in the video the third verse gets lost, and they just do the first verse twice:

My homeland, My homeland
Glory and beauty, Sublimity and splendor
Are in your hills, Are in your hills
Life and deliverance, Pleasure and hope
Are in your air, Are in your Air
Will I see you? Will I see you?
Safe and comforted, Sound and honored
Will I see you in your eminence?
Reaching to the stars, Reaching to the stars
My homeland, My homeland

My homeland, My homeland
The youth will not tire, ’till your independence
Or they die, Or they die
We will drink from death
And will not be to our enemies
Like slaves, Like slaves
We do not want, We do not want
An eternal humiliation
Nor a miserable life
We do not want
But we will bring back
Our storied glory, Our storied glory
My homeland, My homeland

My homeland, My homeland
The sword and the pen
Not the talk nor the quarrel
Are our symbols, Are our symbols
Our glory and our covenant
And a duty to be faithful
Moves us, moves us
Our glory, Our glory
Is an honorable cause
And a waving standard
O, behold you
In your eminence
Victorious over your enemies
Victorious over your enemies
My homeland, My homeland

Posted in Jordan. Comments Off on Mountanee

WikiRiot or average Friday jihad?

Before I went to Jordan, one of my professors told me jihads always start on a Friday after mosque. So I had to laugh when I saw the lead paragraph in the LA Times:

In an unprecedented development in Jordan, protests similar to those that have rocked Tunisia and Algeria in recent weeks erupted in the Arab kingdom Friday.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Amman, and several other cities to protest rising food prices and unemployment, media reports say.

Aside from complaints, they also pointed rare and stinging criticism toward the Jordanian government, headed by Prime Minister Samir Rifai.

“Down with Rifai’s government,” protestors chanted as they marched through Amman’s city center, according to Agence France-Presse. “Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh. Raise fuel prices to fill their pockets with millions.”

Similar protest marches were held in the cities of Maan, Karak, Slat and Irbid, where demonstrators shouted that Jordan was “too big” for Rifai, the report added. All in all, around 8,000 people turned out for the marches — despite previous measures by the Jordanian government to create more jobs and control rising commodity prices.

According to a report by Egypt’s state-run Al Ahram news agency, tanks surrounded the Arab kingdom’s major cities and checkpoints and barriers had been set up.

The report, headlined “Jordan fears another Tunisia”, claimed that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had set up a special task force in his palace that included military and intelligence officials to try to prevent the unrest from escalating further.

It said the country’s main opposition group — the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood — had not participated in Friday’s demonstrations, but the group will reportedly join a sit-in outside parliament Sunday, along with the the country’s 14 trade unions, a move that would probably increase the pressure on the Jordanian authorities.

— Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

The Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t involved? Yeah, sure. “Unprecedented development”? I’ve seen plenty of those demonstrations from my balcony overlooking Wadi Sacra near the al-Husseini mosque, and long ago learned not to make travel plans for Fridays.
Checking back at this week’s story about Algeria from al-Jazeera, there is a similar pattern:

Young people clashed with police in Algiers and several other towns across the country on Friday despite appeals for calm from imams.

In Annaba, 600km west of the capital, rioting broke out after Friday prayers in a poor neighbourhood of the city and continued late into the night.

Are the Tunisia riots different?
They started Dec.17–that would be Friday, Dec.17. but a NYT piece claimed they had been fueled by Wikileaks:

But their new and conspicuous riches, partly exposed in a detailed cable by the American ambassador and made public by WikiLeaks, have fueled an extraordinary extended uprising by Tunisians who blame corruption among the elite for the joblessness afflicting their country.

And one demonstration appeared to have been called by a group on Facebook–on a Thursday.
Some of the controversy was said to center on the wife of the Tunisian leader:

Cables from the United States Embassy in Tunis that were obtained and released by WikiLeaks, including one titled “Corruption in Tunisia: What’s Yours is Mine,” sketch out some of the reasons. Before her marriage to the president in 1992, Ms. Trabelsi had been a hairdresser from a humble family with little formal education. But since then, many in her family, along with the president’s, have ascended to the pinnacle of wealth, owning major stakes in many of Tunisia’s most prominent companies.

“Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage,” the ambassador, Robert F. Godec, wrote in a cable two years ago. “Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Ben Ali, and her extended family — the Trabelsis — provoke the greatest ire from Tunisians,” he added, noting that he heard frequent “barbs about their lack of education, low social status and conspicuous consumption.”

Nouveau riche. No wonder he went back to Modern Standard Arabic after his predecessor had instituted the use of colloquial forms.

One of the symbolic indications of the political change was the linguistic shift that Ben Ali made in his first Communiqué and in his subsequent public political speeches. While Bourguiba used a constellation of linguistic codes — Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, and French, Ben Ali chose to reclaim fuṣħaa as the only official variety of Arabic to use in public political speeches.

But wait, I see here there were riots in Jordan–in Maan, no surprise there–on Tuesday:

Rioters rampaged in a southern Jordanian town on Wednesday in a second day of disturbances aimed at the central government but rooted in deep tribal rivalries. The trouble erupted after two workers were killed, apparently in a clash between tribes, in the conservative southern town of Maan, about 130 miles (200 kilometres) south of the capital of Amman. Police battled demonstrators with tear gas. The riots raged until early Wednesday morning. About 500 protesters set fire to cars, government buildings and smashed shop windows before police managed to restore order.

Oh, my, and riots at the University of Jordan before that:

Last week, police used water cannons to disperse students at the University of Jordan in Amman during riots there. Twelve people were injured and campus facilities were damaged. Students from competing tribes threw sticks and stones at each other over the results of student council elections.

Stones I can believe, but sticks?

Add to that this weeks change in government in Lebanon, and one could almost suspect a full moon.

Posted in Arabs, Jordan. Comments Off on WikiRiot or average Friday jihad?


The zir or maybe zeer (Arabic الزير) is a huge ceramic jar used in Jordan for holding water. I was looking on the internet for an image of a zir and couldn’t find one. The closest I could find was this description of how to put two pots together with sand between them for either filtering or cooling. But that’s not it. Here is a miniature zeer from a tourist shop in Wadi Rhum that I was using as a pencil holder until the foot broke off. Except for the size, it looks pretty much like the real article.

When I moved into my apartment in Jebel Weibdeh, there was one in the apartment that I cleaned up with bleach (paranoid much?) and used at first for cooling water, then later as a makeshift refrigerator. The ceramic pot is unglazed and quite porous. It is a bit pointy on the bottom and rests on a circular metal frame with three legs.  Water slowly escapes through the sides of the ceramic and evaporates, cooling the contents of the pot. Sometimes water drips slowly from the bottom and forms a small pool under the zir.

You may see these in public where a lone soldier is guarding a building. A typical one might have a circular wooden cover and a glass on top for the guard to drink from. Here is my rendering of the zir in action:

I have come across a photo of Salt, the old provincial capital north of Amman, that shows two zeers by a watermelon stand and shows off an example of the city’s unique yellow architecture.

zeer in Salt
closeup of zeer in Salt

ZOMG! Wikileak! Jordanian Soccer Game canceled!

I can only read about something for so long before it becomes necessary to go to the original and see it for myself. Were the Mohammed comics blasphemous? What about Mark Twain? Ahhh…banned books.

The time has come to do that with wikileaks. I’ve finally stumbled across the links for accessing them directly, and what is in the first banned cable I read, but the story of a bitter soccer rivalry in Amman penned by an attentive bureaucrat. The Jordan Times was never this entertaining.

First, the links. The Guardian has a great interactive map of the world with the location of cables indicated by clickable dots. This is the one for me, although some may prefer NYT. The sketchflow blog has more links, focusing on visualizations and graphics, always an interesting topic. Now back to the soccer.

[Obligatory Disclosure: I have a friend whose son plays for Wihdat.]

A 28 July 2009 cable details the cross-city rivalry between the Palestinian Wihdat team from the Wihdat refugee camp on the east side of Amman and the Faisali club which represents the East Bankers. I’m not going to paste secret information here, those who want to see it can follow the link, but suffice it to say a game was halted, with fines and public chastisement all around.

Except for the nationalities, the story could be about London soccer teams. I remember when I went with a Swedish journalist back in 1988 to see Arsenal play another London team. We saw the game with Arsenal fans and had to actually get off at a different subway stop from the other team’s fans. Once we exited the underground, a line of police on both sides of the road made sure we entered our part of the stadium without detours.  Oddly enough, just last week, Canahan sent me a link to a story about a riot in Jordan between the same two teams.  What I say is this: Thank Allah for Football.  Now if we could only get Lebanon, Palestine, and The Other Side to face off against each other in soccer and limit their ferocities to the playing field.

One last detail.  The soccer rivalry cable was classified by a charge d’affaires who added in the heading  “for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)”.  Of course the policy numbers might just refer to reasons for secrecy, but as someone who might be accused of occasional hypergraphia, it intrigues me to think that a bureaucrat might have to have a reason before writing something, and that the reasons might be rigid enough to require the setting down of policy numbers before setting out to write.

Posted in Jordan. 6 Comments »

The blue handed Virgin of Madaba

A trip that Canahan made to an art exhibition in Bruges has inadvertently solved a mystery involving a miraculous Virgin in Jordan.

The Virgin in question is at St. George Greek Orthodox church in Madaba, Jordan, my spiritual home when in Jordan. (I wrote about it here.) The Virgin has been credited with healing miracles and is said to be sought out by Moslems as well as Christians. Two hands hold the Christ child and a third blue hand was discovered to have appeared on the painting one day after a church service.  No one knows how long it was there before the discovery. There seems to be fire shooting out of her thumb.

I searched all over for an explanation of the “blue hand”, but now it turns out the original hand was silver, not blue, and the name of the original image was the Tricheroussa, or three-handed virgin.Here’s the connection with the art exhibition:

Canahan’s art exhibition at Bruges featured  a 1506 wood relief sculpture of St. Luke Drawing Mary by Jacob Beinhart.   There is a tradition that St. Luke painted both Mary and Jesus, but Canahan notes a reference saying: “This has been proved incorrect.” Checking further, I found that the “Guild of Saint Luke” was a common name for painters’ guilds in Europe’s Low Countries.  Saint John of Damascus of the Monsour family–that name should be familiar, in Jordan as well as Chicago–was the one who credited St. John with painting the Virgin’s portrait. Wikipedia tells the rest of the story:

In the early 8th century AD, iconoclasm, a movement seeking to prohibit the veneration of the icons, gained some acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places. A talented writer in the secure surroundings of the caliph’s court, John of Damascus initiated a defense of holy images in three separate publications. “Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images”, the earliest of these works gained him a reputation. Not only did he attack the emperor, but the use of a simpler literary style brought the controversy to the common people, inciting revolt among those of Christian faith. His writings later played an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea which met to settle the icon dispute.

To counter his influence, Leo III sent forged documents implicating John of Damascus in a plot to attack Damascus to the caliph. The caliph did not suspect the forgery, and ordered John’s right hand to be cut off and hanged publicly. Some days afterwards, John asked that his hand be given back to him, which was granted. He prayed fervently to the Theotokos in front of her icon, and his hand was supposedly miraculously restored. Being grateful for this healing, he attached a silver hand on this icon, which is since then known as “Three-handed”, or Tricherousa.

Yeah, right, “Obedezco pero no complo“.  A most excellent miracle, indeed.  Then John stops his rabble-rousing and retires to a monastery, and all is copacetic.

So here she is, the Tricherousa, a three handed icon that was sent originally from St. John’s Mar Sabbas monastery east of Jerusalem to a Serbian Orthodox church in Greece, then was introduced to Moscow, and from there widely copied.

Somewhere along the line, the three-handed virgin made to Madaba,  but now with a blue hand shooting fire, and a tradition of healing so powerful that her icon needs a glass case with padlocks.

Posted in Art, Jordan. 2 Comments »

Happy Birthday Queen Rania

I have been reminded that today is the birthday of Jordan’s Queen Rania. She turns forty today.

What a queen.  She has a YouTube channel that she uses to fight religious intolerance, she writes books* for children that empower girls and bring people of different cultures closer together, and now she twitters. (bio: A mum and a wife with a really cool day job…)
Near and dear to my heart, she has also taken on the controversial issue of child abuse. Wikipedia:

The Jordan River Children Program (JRCP) was developed by Queen Rania to place children’s welfare above political agendas and cultural taboos. This led to the launch, in 1998, of JRF’s Child Safety Program, which addresses the immediate needs of children at risk from abuse and initiated a long-term campaign to increase public awareness about violence against children. The deaths of two children in Amman as a result of child abuse in early 2009 led Queen Rania to call for an emergency meeting of government and non-government (including JRF) stakeholders to discuss where the system was failing.

Looking at her sizable wikipedia article, I also see she has a Norwegian award, the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.  But this line in the explanation of the award stopped me up short:

The list is collated alphabetically by last name, those recipients not possessing a last name, such as royalty and most Icelanders are collated by first name.

I never thought about it before, but royals are certainly in the classification of people who only need one name–Cher, Liberace, Twiggy, Elvis…..

But Icelanders?

(Thanks, Jake.)


The Sandwich Swap. (Amazon) Tells the story of Lily and Salma, two best friends, who argue over the ‘yucky’ taste of their respective peanut butter and jelly and hummus sandwiches. The girls then overcome and embrace their differences.

Maha of the Mountains.  A young girl’s determination to get an education and the challenges she faced. (read online)

The “revoking Palestinians’ citizenship en masse” meme

The meme of Jordan  “revoking Palestinians’ citizenship en masse”  has been recycling since last summer.   It resurfaced again last month, this time in a report from Human Rights Watch.

The New York Times:

A human rights group criticized Jordan on Monday for stripping the citizenship of nearly 3,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin in recent years. Concerned about increasing numbers of Palestinians, who make up nearly half the population, Jordan began in 2004 revoking the citizenship from Palestinians who do not have Israeli permits to reside in the West Bank. Human Rights Watch said Jordan stripped about 2,700 Jordanians of Palestinian origin of their citizenship between 2004 and 2008, rendering them stateless.

The Washington Post provided a possible motive for the story gaining traction now:

AMMAN, Jordan — A U.S.-based human rights group criticized Jordan Monday for stripping the citizenship of nearly 3,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin in recent years.

Nearly half the kingdom’s 6 million people are of Palestinian origin and Jordan fears that if Palestinians become the majority, it will disrupt the delicate demographic balance. Those concerns have been heightened by some Israeli hard-liners who argue that neighboring Jordan should become the Palestinian state and that more West Bank Palestinians should be pushed into Jordan.

The Jordanian government immediately said it wasn’t true:

The Jordanian government on Tuesday said a Human Rights Watch report on the government’s treatment of Palestinian-Jordanians was full of “fallacies” and unsubstantiated allegations…. “The Interior Ministry does not have the legal authority to withdraw the nationality of any citizen,” [Minister of State for Media Affairs Nabil] Sharif added.

…while others pointed out that the Queen herself is Palestinian, born in Kuwait.

The first instance I can find of this meme is from the Israeli newspaper, Jerusalem Post, Jul 20, 2009, “Amman revoking Palestinians’ citizenship”.  In this version, much echoed, the Palestinian population of Jordan has  swelled from “less than half” to “70%”.

The echo chamber that is the blogosphere picked it up and re-echoed it, always with the “70%” population number.  The Raw Story and Democratic Underground covered it (one commenter recommending over and over to “google Black September and Wasfi al-Tal”), as well as various Israeli blogs featuring articles about rebuilding the temple, a frequent concern of extreme right-wing Jewish groups. A month later Judith Miller and David Samuels wrote an excellent in-depth review of the situation in the The Independent, “No way home: The tragedy of the Palestinian diaspora”, restoring some factuality to the discussion, and giving Jordan due credit for its struggles with a difficult refugee problem. (I’m a bit hesitant to give it a link–Miller’s God Has Ninety-Nine Names was brilliant, but her subsequent neocon connections are disturbing.)

Oddly enough, the Jordanian government had already denied the accusations even before they were printed in the Israeli press on July 20, 2009. See the JordanTimes, July 17, 2009.  As the commenter at Democratic Underground puts it:

So in the past three years 638 Palestinians have had their yellow cards replaced with green (losing full rights of Jordanian citizenship), while in the same period 12,325 Palestinians traded in green for yellow (granting them full rights as Jordanians).

This is revoking Palestinians’ citizenship en masse?


While the Israeli paper was busy criticizing Jordan, their own Israeli government had been busy revoking papers for twice as many Palestinians as Human Rights Watch claims for Jordan. From the NYT June 12, 1997, “Israel Says Arabs Born in Jerusalem Are Aliens”

…1,000 East Jerusalem Arabs… residency permits have been revoked in the last year and a half.

and from the NYT December 2, 2009,

Separately, an Israeli human rights group said Wednesday that government statistics it had obtained showed a leap in the number of Palestinians who had their Jerusalem residency status revoked by the Israeli Interior Ministry in 2008. The group, HaMoked, said the 2008 figure of 4,577 residents of East Jerusalem whose residency was revoked equaled more than half the total recorded revocations in the previous 40 years since 1967.

For a more in-depth look at the Jordan situation, and a discussion of the issues of Palestinians with Jordanian papers living abroad, see yesterday’s New York Times, March 14, 2010, “Some Palestinian Jordanians Lose Citizenship”


There is no country that has done more for the Palestinians than Jordan.  During the 1948 and 1967 wars that forced so many Palestinians from their homes, only Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria accepted refugees.  The refugees went to hastily constructed camps. Today the Lebanon and Syria Palestinians and their descendants are still confined to those camps. They are not allowed to become citizens. Only Jordan has offered citizenship to the Palestinians who want it.  Many do not, and prefer to live in Jordan and wait for repatriation (which most observers believe is unlikely–there are some 5 million Palestinians now in exile, out of the half a million who originally left), or more probably some kind of international reparations for their exile. Many Jordanian Palestinians do have Jordanian passports–I have seen them–and many more became financially successful enough to either leave the camps and buy property elsewhere (I have been a guest in the villas with Mercedes parked on the marble driveways)  or improve the housing and living conditions they already have by rebuilding within the camps. I have seen the poor, with leaky corrugated metal roofs, and the well-off, with proper concrete housing, living side by side in the camps.  Don’t get me wrong, the Palestinians are not always treated as full Jordanians; Jordan’s 1970 civil war and the assassination attempts against King Hussein are still remembered.


So why is all of this coming out now? and why is it important? It probably has something to do with the sentence I highlighted at the top of the page:

Nearly half the kingdom’s 6 million people are of Palestinian origin and Jordan fears that if Palestinians become the majority, it will disrupt the delicate demographic balance. Those concerns have been heightened by some Israeli hard-liners who argue that neighboring Jordan should become the Palestinian state and that more West Bank Palestinians should be pushed into Jordan.

The same argument was made when I was living there.  Palestinians can go to Jordan, said the extremists.  But Jordan doesn’t have the water to handle even more refugees forced out of their homes.  Even now Jordan’s sweet aquifers are turning saline from overpumping, as the adjacent saline aquifers leech into them. (You should have seen the layer of crud on the inside of my Jordanian teapot.) And isn’t there a huge aquifer that’s been discovered under the West Bank?  Hmmm.

This is the nothing more than the scheme of the old Likud right-wing groups who according to Kamal Salibi’s The Modern History of Jordan, want a

transformation of the Jordanian East Bank into a Palestinian watan badil, or ‘alternative homeland’, so that the West Bank and the Gaza strip could be readily annexed to Israel.  This watan badil theory-summed up by the slogan ‘Jordan is Palestine’ – had first been advanced in Israel in 1975;  its leading exponent was Ariel Sharon, who was minister of agriculture, and then minister of defense, in two successive Likud cabinets.  In the opinion of Sharon and his followers, the Hashemite order in Jordan was the chief obstacle to the annexation of Palestinian occupied territories by Israel.   Since 1967, the Palestinians had actually come to form a substantial majority in the Jordanian East Bank.  Thus, Sharon  argued, Jordan would automatically become a Palestinian republic once the monarchy in Amman was overthrown.  If necessary, the Israeli government could hasten the process by massive expulsions of West Bank Palestinians to the East Bank.

The Israelis who are so anxious for a return to the days of Palestinian control of Jordan would do well to remember the days back before the 1967 war when the fedayeen from Syria and Lebanon operated openly from the Jordanian Wihdat and Husseini refugee camps, and the unguarded long border with Jordan was a sieve for those who would attack Israel nightly then escape back across the border into the safe haven of a nation that was sovereign, but as yet not strong enough to be able to prevent them.


This post is long, but I’m going to make it just a little bit longer, to make the events come full circle.  The original report in the Jerusalem Post was supposed to have been based on an interview with Jordan’s Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi in the London based Arabic paper Al-Hayat.  To make a long story short, I can’t find any such interview in the paper’s archives, and they do go back that far.  But I did find this at the Dar al Hayat website:  “The Salam Fayad Document: A Palestinian Initiative to Bear Responsibility” written by the the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority:

This is a Palestinian initiative to bear Palestinian responsibility, and that is a bold move on the part of the Palestinians, through a clear and detailed vision, to show that they are serious in taking on the task of building the state themselves, starting with Arab and international assistance and ending with self-reliance through state institutions. It is the project of proving the Palestinians’ ability to build and respect themselves and to inform everyone that something new has happened in Palestinian thought, vision and determination.

Traditionally, the Arabs in their private meetings have often discussed the Palestinians at great lengths in a language reflecting resentment towards Palestinian leaderships. Thus they would often level accusations of constant failure at the Palestinians and make them bear responsibility for the poor state of the Arabs. Today brings the opportunity for the Arabs to say that the Palestinians have become serious and can be supported and made to bear responsibility for success, not failure.

Of course, what we speak of here is the political, financial and economic support necessary for building the institutions of the state of Palestine, support which must flow in an organized manner to the institutions of the Palestinian Authority. However, we also speak of repairing the relationship between the Arabs and the Palestinians, as well as of lifting the spirits of Palestinians on Palestinian soil.

For example, Salam Fayyad’s plan of building an international airport in the West Bank, one in which Air Force One would land, carrying Barack Obama to the state of Palestine, is one of raising the spirits of Palestinians and of strengthening imposing Palestine as a de facto state. Thus it is necessary for Arab countries to extend their assistance and to lift the restrictions imposed on their citizens, so that they may visit Palestine as it builds its institutions, walk in the streets of Jerusalem, speak the Arabic language, stay at Palestinian hotels and eat at Palestinian restaurants. Such was the cry of Faisal Husseini: Come to Jerusalem to save it.

Palestinian vision.  I love it.

A review of the plan by former ambassador Edward S. Walker is here, analysis by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) is here, an interview by Christian Science Monitor is here, and the full text of the plan is here.
Says Dr. Fayyad:

“If we don’t do anything, people will criticize us, and if we come up with something that’s proactive, we’ll also have critics,” shrugs Fayyad. “Is this realistic? We’ll never know unless we try.”

Palestinian independence.  It’s a Nike thing.  Just do it.

Palestine should be printing their own frigging passports.

St. George Church

St. George Greek Orthodox church in Madaba, Jordan. The quality of the photos is not consistent, but I did the best I could without flash. The photos weren’t really taken to display, but more for sentimental reasons.

Wikipedia has some good photos of Madaba and the church, here is the mosaic itself.


Photos, left to right:
Row 1: Church entrance.
Row 2: [1] Interior of the church, rear entrance, where there is also a place for donations and a container of sand for lighting candles. Two angels are painted at the tops of the columns, I think Michael and Gabriel, this one should be Michael. A painting of St. Catherine and a wheel can be seen on the left through the arch. [2] Front of church. In orthodox churches, typically the podium-like construction on the right is for a picture that illustrates the name of the church, this should be a picture of St. George. The roped off area of the floor is the map mosaic.
Row 3: [1] Painting of Christ over the altar area. [2] Stairs leading down to miraculous painting of virgin and other paintings.
Row 4: [1] Miraculous virgin, credited with healing miracles, two hands hold the Christ child and a third blue hand was discovered to have appeared on the painting one day after a church service; no one knows how long it was there before the discovery. There seems to be fire shooting out of her thumb. [2] The mosaic, a boat with the disciples in it, the faces intentionally obscured by iconoclasts during the 3rd century(?); the boat is upside down, the photo being taken from the front of the church.
Row 5: [1] Mosaic, map of Jerusalem [2] Mosaic, fish turning back from the saline water of the Dead Sea; some sort of frolicking antelope creature has somehow escaped the attention of the iconoclasts.
Row 6: [1] The rear (southwest) corner of the church, showing the crosslike division of the main space into smaller spaces. Another painting of St. George menacing the dragoon with a spear is seen through the arch. [2] Art: John the Baptist, and in the background a virgin. As a side note, there is a very old image of the Baptist at the nearby Mt. Nebo that escaped the iconoclasts, having been discovered when the pulpit was moved during remodeling.
Row 7: A sampling of some more art typical of this church. [1] An icon of an angel. [2] A chariot with flames. The angel on the right has flames coming out of her hand (as does the miraculous virgin).

Posted in Jordan. 2 Comments »

Jordanian Sweatshops

Jordan has appeared on a list of countries that produce goods by child labor or forced labor. The Labor Department has just released a report mandated by Congress titled The Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. If you look at the chart on page 13 you will see that Jordan is listed as a country producing garments with forced labor.  For more information you need to go to the bibliography at the end of the report.  The countries are listed alphabetically; Jordan is on p. 118.

The culprits, it seems, are the QIZ’s  (special economic zones)  that have proliferated in the last 5 years as the result of the U.S. giving Jordan special trade status with the U.S.  and the workers considered to be “forced labor” are not Jordanians, but guest workers from countries like Bangladesh.  This New York Times article is representative:

But some foreign workers in Jordanian factories that produce garments for Target, Wal-Mart and other American retailers are complaining of dismal conditions — of 20-hour days, of not being paid for months and of being hit by supervisors and jailed when they complain.

An advocacy group for workers contends that some apparel makers in Jordan, and some contractors that supply foreign workers to them, have engaged in human trafficking. Workers from Bangladesh said they paid $1,000 to $3,000 to work in Jordan, but when they arrived, their passports were confiscated, restricting their ability to leave and tying them to jobs that often pay far less than promised and far less than the country’s minimum wage.

“We used to start at 8 in the morning, and we’d work until midnight, 1 or 2 a.m., seven days a week,” said Nargis Akhter, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi who, in a phone interview from Bangladesh, said she worked last year for the Paramount Garment factory outside Amman. “When we were in Bangladesh they promised us we would receive $120 a month, but in the five months I was there I only got one month’s salary — and that was just $50.”

Why am I not surprised.  Jordan is not a wealthy country and its guest workers are the most vulnerable of anyone in the country.  A New York based advocacy group, the National Labor Committee, has documented abuses in Jordan. (Unfortunately their search function will only display the four most recent items, although those items do have more links.)

To complicate matters, a QIZ is one of the areas where foreign investment money can be used to set up factories. Rumor has had it for a long time that much of such investment capital comes from Israel.  One of the most egregious cases has come from Musa Garments in Irbid (owned by two Israelis) that makes Israeli labels such as Irit, Bonita,  Pashut, and Jump.

The lesson here is clear.  Special trade agreements are great, and I’m overjoyed to see the U.S. in a special relationship with Jordan.  But a small and hungry country like this isn’t going to be able to police their own ranks, much less control foreign nationals operating within their country.   Special U.S. trade relationships like this need to be tied to fair labor legislation.

Posted in Jordan. Comments Off on Jordanian Sweatshops

An Old Hack

australian akubra hatCanehan, a sometime commenter at Languagehat, has started his own blog, An Old Hack. This is going to be great.  Not only did Calahan once live in my home-away-from-home, Amman Jordan, but he also had my secret dream job–he was a reporter for a major news service.

What exactly is an Old Hack?  Says Canehan, it’s a self-depreciating British journalists’ term for a grizzled old veteran who can do the job and has no illusions about being a star. It’s a term that’s not age-related, but just means veteran or experienced.  I would love to be an “Old Hack”–it sounds so worldly and jaded and Guy Noir-ish–more serious and atmospheric than the Lois Lane kind of thing, but Canehan says it’s a term that’s only used for guys.

What’s a “Canehan” and how do you pronounce it? He explains that all here.

And the hat?–it’s an Akubra, the signature hat from Canehan’s native Australia.

Some people learn once when they are young and in school and then stop learning.  For me, learning has been a lifelong adventure and has often taken place in non-traditional ways or outside of academia.  My discovery of writing came late; I owe it to an editor who encouraged me by introducing me as “a journalist” before I even had my first piece published.  I can’t begin to tell what a thrill it was the first time I saw my name in a byline.  It’s a greater pleasure than even chocolate, and I do take my chocolate seriously!

So I will be very eager to see what Canehan has to say about the Middle East…and about writing.

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